The librarian for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bill Van Niekerken, comes up with some dandy articles by digging through the newspaper’s voluminous archives. Somehow, we missed this great story and photos, showing three double-deck London Transport buses coming to, and driving through, San Francisco on a cross-country British tourism promotion in 1952. The photo above shows one of the RTL-type buses (predecessor to London Transport’s famed Routemasters) on Market Street at Eighth, sharing the street with three “Iron Monster” Muni streetcars. The Whitcomb Hotel is on the left behind the bus, with the Fox Theater farther up the street on the right.
The London buses have New York bus license plates, as well as their own UK registration. And their roll signs read “GREETINGS FROM BRITAIN” in the square sign box, with “TO SAN FRANCISCO” in the rectangular box below. Presumably, that lower box could be changed to show whatever city they were currently visiting.
Because California’s overhead road clearances didn’t always anticipate vehicles this tall, they brought along telescoping poles that they could use to test the clearance before driving through. The photo below shows a tight squeeze going under the Southern Pacific Railroad trestle on El Camino Real in Colma. This is a particularly interesting photo. The old tracks for the 40-line interurban streetcar to San Mateo are still in place, and well south of the San Francisco city limits, we see a Muni White Company motor coach trailing the double-decker. That’s something of a mystery. During this period, Muni operated the developer-funded 76-Broadmoor line, connecting a new subdivision in Daly City to Muni lines in the city, but it never went this far south. (Maybe it was an escort vehicle, causing three steps behind the royalty of the double-decker.) There’s still a rail crossing at this point: BART, which took over the old SP right-of-way.
Muni did try out a double-decker bus at one point much later on, a demonstrator that didn’t catch on. For higher capacity, they chose articulated buses instead, or what the British, with their gift for great phrases, call “bendy-buses”.
And of course, double-deck buses are commonplace sights in San Francisco today, most of them open top tour buses. Tourists: don’t forget to come to the San Francisco Railway Museum to buy that sweatshirt that you DID forget at home! 🙂
That’s the title of a great piece by Justin Franz on the Trains Magazine website today. Click the link and read it. It really says everything that needs to be said about the history and popularity of San Francisco’s vintage streetcar operation. Thanks, Justin, for the story, and thanks, Muni, for the dedicated people who run and maintain these treasures.
Just to be clear, the headline on Justin’s piece refers to the streetcars themselves, what we call the “Museums in Motion”. As he writes, “MUNI’s streetcars look like museum pieces, but don’t think for a second think they’re static.” That’s exactly why we’ve worked so hard in our advocacy for the past 35 years: restore streetcars to their “natural habitat” — the STREET — where today’s riders can feel the rumble, hear the squeals, experience what generations past experienced — in the same type of streetcar, on the same street. We appreciate the recognition.
A reminder that we totally depend on donations and memberships from people who love the “Museums in Motion” like we do. We receive no government money at all. Your donations and memberships make it possible to continue the successful advocacy that created San Francisco’s vintage streetcar lines in the first place, and keeps them on track today. Please consider supporting us. (You can donate as little as $5, less cost than one round-trip on the streetcars.)
For those who clicked through to our website from the link in the article, a reminder that Muni Heritage Weekend will feature special appearances by streetcars, buses, and a cable car that are only rarely (if at all) in the daily service Justin describes. Heritage Weekend is September 8 and 9 this year, centered at our San Francisco Railway Museum near the Ferry Building, which also functions as an interpretive center for the “Museums in Motion”. We’ll have more about Muni Heritage Weekend on this site in a few days.
View Northeast on Market Street From 2nd Street | March 29, 1951. SFMTA Archives
This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum.
Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit in the city.
Come see this free exhibit at the museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, across from the Ferry Building, Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Oh, and come in soon: we’ve just put our great 2017 calendar on sale at the museum only, for just $5 (down from $12.95).)
Later this year, our members will be able to peruse an enhanced version of the exhibit in our quarterly newsletter, Inside Track. Join now!
We’ve got a whole range of new merchandise you can’t find anywhere else, because we designed it ourselves in support of our mission to preserve and celebrate historic transit in San Francisco.
We’ve got four new 11-ounce mugs featuring images from our Vintage Travel Series — original art we commissioned in the style of classic travel posters celebrating destinations along the historic streetcar and cable car lines.
And for a laugh, we’ve even made it possible for you to turn Muni off (or on!) whenever you like with this cool light switch cover, one of two we offer. (Thanks to Jeremy Whiteman for the great photo of car 1040 we used, including the Z-Zoo route.)
So either come on down to the Museum at 77 Steuart Street (Steuart Street F-line stop), across from the Ferry Building, between 10 am and 5 pm from Tuesday through Sunday (we’re closed Mondays), or click here to shop online. Move quickly if you want to shop online though. We are unable to offer overnight delivery options so be sure you place your order in time to get it for the holidays. And we do have a wider selection of merchandise at the Museum than we’re able to offer online.
We’ve told you about the great Muni Centennial book created by five of our members. This coming Sunday, December 4, from 2-4 p.m., you have the chance to meet three of the authors, discuss Muni and San Francisco transit history with them, buy the book and have them sign it. This informal book signing will take place at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, right at the Steuart Street F-line stop across from the… — Read More